Sandwiched between Jordan and Ukraine, the Republic of Ireland is "not the worst" performer when it comes to promoting women's rights, says Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Emily Logan, but "we shouldn't be using lesser standards against which to judge ourselves."
“At a superficial level, if you are looking from a distance it all looks very impressive comparatively,” she tells Kathy Sheridan, on this week’s Women’s Podcast, but looking to Scandanavian countries at the top of the list, our performance is much worse.
For the first time in more than a decade the State’s performance in promoting women’s rights and gender equality faced detailed UN scrutiny earlier this year. This saw the State being cross-examined by a UN expert committee on its compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Logan appeared before the committee in Geneva, which worked off a report that her office had compiled. The human rights commission embarked on a massive consultation process for the report, speaking to women from all walks of life, including those in direct provision centres, prisons, rural areas.
The UN convention identified 58 aspects of Irish life and legislation that “adversely affect women” and prevent them from enjoying “human rights and freedoms”. It highlighted women in direct provision, those with disabilities, Travellers and others, as being at risk of social exclusion.
It also singled out the Eighth Amendment, which protects the right to life of the unborn, saying that it “unduly restricts access to abortion” and called for a constitutional referendum on the issue.
“Essentially they said a constitutional referendum needs to take place and how societal views have changed considerably since they last heard Ireland’s progress on this, which was a decade ago. This has been recommended by multiple UN treaty bodies,” Logan says.
“From our point of view, as a commission I suppose we are limited in what we can do because in the context of a constitutional referendum we’re not allowed to influence the electorate but we are legitimately allowed to comment on any piece of legislation that has implications for human rights and equality.”
Logan also speaks about the Republic's often praised international human rights reputation and says: "the concern is that sometimes human rights is viewed as foreign policy in Ireland instead of matching that with our domestic reputation."
Originally a nurse by trade, later in the podcast she talks about her time at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, before becoming director of nursing at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, and then director of Tallaght hospital. She also mentions her mother Marie, who was a big influence on the path she has taken in life.
To listen to the full conversation between Logan and Sheridan, go to iTunes, irishtimes.com/podcasts, or your preferred podcast app.